Review: Aurora's ABIGAIL/1702 Scares the Hell out of Atlanta
A young girl runs through the forest, chased by her old uncle who looks mal-intentioned. As she stops to catch her breath, she fills the audience in on her story, setting the scene for the chilling ABIGAIL/1702.
Aurora's newest mainstage show follows Abigail Williams of Arthur Miller's THE CRUCIBLE 10 years after the Salem Witch Trials. In Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's play, Abigail has moved to Boston, changed her name to Ruth, and tried to rid herself of the guilt she feels from sending 20 innocent people to the Salem gallows. Expanding on Miller's work, ABIGAIL suggests the title character herself (expertly played by Diany Rodriguez) made a pact with the Devil before the events in Salem. It asks, can anyone be redeemed after committing terribly atrocious acts? Does God really offer forgiveness to everyone?
This play is a logical extension of Lawrenceville's aesthetic, as the town already has a reputation for being haunted. Under the direction of Justin Anderson, Aurora skillfully depicts a complex exploration of Heaven, Hell, and everyone/thing in between, ultimately creating a rich examination of humanity.
The forest-based set and haunting pre-show sound effects communicate a sinister tone even before the play begins (the former designed by Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay, the latter by Marc Gwinn). Ben Rawson's lighting design perpetuates this, adding an extra dose of creepy in every scene with its subtle transitions as well as unexpected flashes of light at tense moments. In particular, shadows created by footlights likewise enhance the terrifying flashbacks. Full disclosure: I missed at least two key surprise moments, averting my eyes in fear.
You'd never know Diany Rodriguez naturally speaks with anything other than a Scots-Irish accent, as she smoothly delivers the bulk of the script in Abigail's dialect (thanks, dialect-coach Galen Crawley York!)- and I do mean bulk. She both stars in and narrates her story, sometimes taking on eerie voices as she wildly runs about the stage in Abigail's unsettling, borderline possessed moments. But the liar from THE CRUCIBLE is anything but hateable as Rodriguez explores Abigail's girlish naïveté. Her ability to show the contrasting facets of the character and pull the audience in so we trust her completely secures hers as a performance not to be missed.
Olivia Dawson's portrayal of Older Woman brings delightful sass and challenges the audience's loyalties in a heartwrenching way. Peter Hardy embodies smooth and sinister as Older Man, and Lee Osorio brings a sweet, trustworthy strength to Young Man. As Little Boy, Joshua Pagan is endearingly precious.
You could say it's a sequel to THE CRUCIBLE, but it's also a standalone story of redemption. A powerful, creepy, and beautiful addition to this Halloween season.
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Visit Aurora's website here to purchase tickets to ABIGAIL/1702, running through October 17.
Photo credit: Chris Bartelski